Republicans just kicked Liz Cheney to the curb because she won’t shut up about President Trump’s election lies.
The House Republican conference voted on Tuesday morning to remove Cheney from her role as conference chair, the third-ranking position in GOP leadership. The official ouster follows more than a week of growing reprisals from Republican leaders and members who’d stood by her just months earlier. Her sin: repeatedly, vocally and unequivocally pushing back when Trump repeated his election lies.
The vote is the most glaring example of ritual punishment by Republicans of their members who dared to stand up to Trump. And it shows that there’s no room in the modern GOP for vocal criticism of the former president, who continues to maintain a stranglehold on his party while pushing false and dangerous lies that the election was stolen from him. In this atmosphere, Republicans have two choices: Stay quiet or get canceled.
Cheney knowingly chose the latter.
“Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president. They have heard only his words, but not the truth, as he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all,” Cheney said on the House floor Tuesday night in a speech she knew would be her last while in GOP leadership.
Cheney ticked through all the evidence that Trump was lying about 2020: The dozens upon judges, some appointed by Trump, who’d tossed out frivolous and evidence-free legal challenges to the 2020 election. Trump’s own Justice Department stating that they’d found zero evidence of widespread voting fraud. The violent attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters, immediately after he’d rallied them from around the country, revved them up and told them to march on the building.
Trump’s rhetoric has grown even more inflammatory and conspiratorial since he left office. He continues to push lies that multiple states’ elections where he lost by tens of thousands of votes were rigged against him, while attacking any Republican who dares confront him.
Cheney warned that if more Republicans don’t join her, Trump’s lies could lead to the “unraveling of our democracy.”
“Remaining silent, and ignoring the lie, emboldens the liar.”
“Remaining silent, and ignoring the lie, emboldens the liar,” she said. “I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”
Cheney survived a February putsch attempt from pro-Trump hard-liners: A majority of House Republicans voted to keep her in leadership even though she had voted to impeach President Trump. She had House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s backing in that race. But the reason McCarthy turned on her this time—and so many Republicans joined him—wasn’t so much that she’d broken with Trump but that she wouldn’t keep quiet about it.
Cheney repeatedly called Trump out for his continued lies that the 2020 election was stolen from him, and drew a direct line from those lies to the pro-Trump riot on January 6.
That was enough to irritate many in the House GOP—even those who agree with her don’t want to talk about it, since it puts them in the tough spot of having to either corroborate Trump’s lies or say the truth and risk his wrath. They swiftly moved to remove her on Tuesday, using a voice vote that didn’t require a recorded tally of how many Republicans supported her ouster.
Cheney infuriated McCarthy when she broke with him and endorsed Democrats’ call for a bipartisan, independent committee to investigate the Capitol riots. That came after she pointedly declined to invite Trump to April’s House GOP retreat, and responded to a question about what role Trump should play in the midterm elections by saying McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were the party’s leaders.
The final straw came last Monday.
“The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system,” Cheney tweeted, shortly after Trump put out a statement declaring “The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!”
McCarthy made it publicly clear that he was done with Cheney the next day.
“I have heard from members concerned about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message,” he said on Fox News, suggesting members want a leader who can help them “all work together instead of attacking one another.”
House Republicans plan to backfill Cheney’s position with New York GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik, a more moderate lawmaker whose loud defense of Trump during his first impeachment made her a MAGA star. While some conservatives have grumbled about Stefanik’s voting record, she has the strong backing of McCarthy and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, and no other serious candidate emerged to challenge her.
Cheney had her Republican defenders—including some Republicans who’ve remained in Trump’s good graces.
That included Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, the highest-ranking woman in Senate GOP leadership, who said Monday that the House GOP putsch against Cheney amounted to “cancel culture.”
“It’s OK to go ahead and express what you feel is right to express,” Ernst told reporters when asked about Cheney’s looming ouster. “And you know, cancel culture is cancel culture no matter how you look at it, and unfortunately I think there are those that are trying to silence others in the party.”
But notably, almost none of them were in the House.
Cheney’s facing a tough primary fight back in her home state of Wyoming, and Trump has vowed to endorse an opponent. The former president is especially beloved by Wyoming Republicans—he received his best share of the vote in Wyoming of any state.
But Cheney won't go quietly. And freed from the constraints of leadership, she might now be even more critical of Trump and the Republicans who coddle him.
“We cannot both embrace the Big Lie and embrace the Constitution,” she told reporters immediately after the vote, promising to do everything that she can to ensure Trump “never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.”